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Scottish MUP policy curbs drinking, study shows

Published:  26 September, 2019

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland has reduced alcohol consumption in some households, a study published in the British Medical Journal has found.

The Scottish government introduced a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol on 1 May 2018.

This has led to a drop in weekly alcohol consumption of 9.5g or 1.2 units per adult per household, the study showed. That equates to 7.6%.

The policy has had a particularly strong impact on heavy-drinking households, where alcohol purchases were down by 15g of alcohol per week. The effect was particularly marked in lower income households.

The study was undertaken by researchers at the University of Newcastle and based on data from Kantar Worldpanel’s household shopping panel for 2015 to 2018, including the eight months after the policy’s implementation.

It looked at the alcohol-purchasing patterns in the off-trade of around 5,000 Scottish households, with over 50,000 English households used as controls, some 10,000 of which were in northern England to control for potential cross-border effects.

The largest reductions in consumption were found for beer, spirits, and cider, the study found.

“Given that these categories include the own-brand spirits and high strength white ciders that MUP sought to target, our data suggest that the policy has achieved its ambition,” its authors wrote.

The study noted that its methodology precluded an analysis of actual drinking levels among consumers in Scotland, and that it was unable to reach any conclusions regarding heavy drinkers with no fixed address or who live in communal accommodation.

Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce an MUP policy.

The initial legislation was introduced in May 2012. However, the policy’s legality was repeatedly challenged in court by the Scotch Whisky Association. The Supreme Court ultimately found for the Scottish government in November 2017.